Townsville, North Queensland, Australia, is my home. Sometimes it is referred to as the Redneck capital of the Deep North. We are collectively called Banana Benders on account of the fruit which our climate favours. But, as my home and web site name suggests, I am Mancunian, Lancastrian and British or, as we are called here, in upside-down land, a Pommie - often suffixed with a fatherless connotation!
After five, serial, monogamous partnerships over many years, I had ended up, three years previously (1994), divorced from an Australian 30 years my junior. Age had not been a factor unless my eccentric standards were a function of age. My ex-spouse complained that she could not live up to these. After these partnerships, where the age gap had steadily increased from nil to thirty, I thought that I would try narrowing that gap.
My partners had been French, Irish, British and Australian so I was clearly eclectic as far as Europeans were concerned. All were good people and I have neither complaints nor grudges. Nevertheless, the Western females that were available seemed to have lost their attraction. I think that became obvious when I tried to develop a relationship with a woman who was only twenty years younger.
She seemed to be insisting on various attitudes from me. What did I think of homosexuals, coloured people etc.? I think she was trying to judge whether I fitted into her concept of a decent, politically correct, male. Rather confusing for me because I have changing thoughts on these issues. Which is the real me? But, when she tried to teach me a few correct attitudes drawn from a college welfare course that she was attending, I suspected that she was too good for me. I tried to tell her that I used to teach this course and things were not as cut and dried as she assumed. The final nail sank into our coffin when she compulsively jumped out of bed to shower after doing "that thing." That was disruptive enough for an old man. But there was more! Once, when I had not turned on the water heater, she roared off to her place for a hot shower. That were all right had she stayed there. I managed to get back to sleep. But half an hour later she was a hammering on the door for readmission. So I made a pillow sandwich of my head. Later, she said that she agreed with my ex-wife: that I was eccentric. It's not true, I vow.
From time to time I pondered upon an ex-colleague's marriage. He had married a youngish Filipina. She was attractive, educated and made one comfortable when in their house. Her oldish husband had a very old mother living with them and the Filipina just took this in her stride as a normal household. In spite of an active sex life she did not conceive. Her ambition was children - a common trait of Filipinas. She was upset when he told her that he had been "cut." Nevertheless, she digested that and their marriage maintained and even tenor. Perhaps she diverted herself by working hard in a menial job and found satisfaction remitting money back home to the Philippines. A Filipino compulsion.
So, when I saw an advertisement in our local rag's personals, I became curious. A Filipina of 23 years wanted a pen pal with a view to possible marriage. Much too young! But I wrote her asking if she knew anyone older that she could put in touch. After several weeks a pleasant letter arrived from her sister. She was 32 years, single and a public servant on the Philippines' island, Samar - one of over three thousand. We corresponded for a short while and made a couple of phone calls. She never did send a much-promised photo and then she asked for a gold watch. She said that those in the Philippines were of inferior quality. This put me off. In addition, the number of her siblings kept changing. So this attempt fizzled out.
I had recently connected to the Internet so I punched Filipina into Yahoo and thousands of these ladies bounced back at me from seemingly endless pen pal sites. My surprise was immense. They were so many, so pretty, so young, and so eager to contact men of almost any age in the West. Their criteria seemed generally to be a good heart, steady job and sincerity. After perusing what seemed like millions of pretty faces I settled on a 32 year old teacher who looked rather attractive.
I wrote and, by return, she said that she had only experienced one "live-in" relationship which was supposed to lead to marriage. But it quickly led to two children and a cheating partner. I was going to stop there because, although I did not mind her relationship and children, I did mind that the latter were not mine. In spite of this I was intrigued. Somehow an honest sincerity shone out of her letter. So I thought that I would write on to see what happened. And that was an increased admiration for her and a feeling that I could welcome the children because they were hers.
But then we ran up against the ubiquitous problem. She was the only salaried employee in a quite extended family. And, although she only had relief teaching so far, the salary, for the Philippines, was quite good. And she was rising near the top of the list for a permanent job. Her father had a smallholding in the barangay running a few pigs and did a bit of picking and trading in bananas. A few chickens ran around the place as is usual. As a consequence she did not want to leave home until she had provided enough money for her father to extended his piggy empire. From a couple to a couple of dozen porkers was, I think, the size of it. I asked if I could help in order to shorten the waiting should we, after meeting, find a basis for marriage. She seemed not to desire a lump sum, but some form of regular remittance to her family. For this she wanted to work in the West. But I did not want a working wife and, besides, how could she adequately mother her children? She was quite willing to leave these toddlers for years - say until high school - with her parents. I found this unacceptable as it would be too much sacrifice for her; and might make her resentful and bitter. Being from the West, of course, I did not then appreciate that it was no big sacrifice as theirs was a collective responsibility within their families and not the cloying possessiveness that we feel. Anyway, she would have a couple of our own children - we hoped. And then there would be the part sharing of my ten, eleven and fourteen year olds.
By the this time, after about six months of writing, I had joined the Mahalkita listserv and was gaining some ideas of what was usual in these Filipina-Western relationships. This list, started by an aspiring Hollywood director, Jeff Hollis, with a Filipina wife, was a support group for those with Fil/other interests. The desire of a western-based Filipina to send support money home was almost universal and was, of course, one of the reasons these desirable women were looking westward for husbands. I was also writing to another couple of Filipinas met through Mahalkita. One, married, was happily settled in the USA; the other, on Mindanao like my pen pal, was awaiting a visa to join her man in the USA. I think that I learned from them that the Filipina was very practical when it came to choosing her man before she allowed romance to take over. I thought that sensible. In addition, and as "insurance", I started writing to the sister in law of another lister on Mahalkita. I told this woman of thirty, no children, and also attractive, that I intended seeing my longer-standing pal first and she said that she understood.
As I am retired on a modest income I could not be overly generous, so I offered to allow the teacher to send what I was told was the basic male wage on Mindanao. This was if we decided on marriage. I thought that, together with what her other siblings could contribute, and her father could earn, might be adequate for their needs. In addition, I said that if she wished to put a bit of effort into my hobby mango farm ( a few hundred young, but bearing, trees) she could keep any profits earned to do with as she liked.
I offered this package and, after a few more weeks and letters, it was accepted. By this time we seemed to have built up quite a sympathetic and fond affection. But all the time I was questioning how much I was thinking wishfully. I share custody of my three youngest children and they were kept fully informed of my activities. They were not averse to me remarrying to a Filipina.
Turn Page Over
Copyright © Clive Halliday 2001.